04 Apr 2018

South Shore Line to Make Rail Travel Even Safer with Positive Train Control (PTC)


South Shore News

At the South Shore Line (SSL), safety is our highest priority. To further enhance our safety efforts, The SSL will be implementing (along with all other passenger railroads in the US) Positive Train Control (PTC) technology across their entire network.

PTC is an unprecedented, advanced set of technologies that will automatically stop a train before certain human error incidents occur. PTC will prevent train-to-train collisions and derailments caused by excessive speed, unauthorized train movement onto sections of track, and movement of a train through a track switch left in the wrong position. This technology is capable of automatically stopping a train, should a train operator fail to take appropriate action for the conditions at hand. “While we are very proud of our safety record, there is always an opportunity for improvement, and this system allows us to reduce the potential for human error. The new PTC technology utilizes a complex computerized set of checks and balances that will take over the operation of a train should an engineer fail to take proper action. Safety is at the forefront of everything we do, so we are looking forward to implementing this new technology,” said Mike Noland, South Shore Line/NICTD President.

The South Shore Line is developing and implementing this system as mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. However, because each railroad is unique, the SSL is developing a PTC system from the ground up that meets their unique requirements. PTC has to work to perfection; there are no shortcuts when it comes to safety. It is not enough to get PTC to operate across a single railroad’s footprint; it must be interoperable with other railroads.

As the SSL develops and installs each component, it must pass multiple, rigorous testing requirements in lab testing, field testing, and FRA certification. Field testing will require the physical testing of equipment on the SSL rails to ensure PTC systems are completely interoperable and working together seamlessly. Field testing is scheduled to begin April 9th.

The effect of field testing on passenger trains is expected to be minimal, but the SSL will work diligently to keep their passengers updated and informed during this time. Passengers may notice different cars being used or empty cars running on the line at non-scheduled times that will be used for testing. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our passengers. We will test our PTC equipped trains first without passengers onboard so we will be reallocating cars to simulate full-load trains. While our passengers may experience minor inconveniences throughout the testing process, we are confident that they appreciate our safety-first focus.” Noland, President of SSL/NICTD, added.